Exploring mental wellness of older Indian migrants in Western Australia: A focused ethnographic study

Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - ECU Access Only


Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Master of Nursing (Research)


School of Nursing and Midwifery

First Supervisor

Irene Ngune

Second Supervisor

Davina Porock

Third Supervisor

Maggie Zgambo


Mental wellness is an innate ability that supports thinking, feeling, connecting, and functioning; it is an active process that promotes resilience, development, and flourishing. Mental health is proven not only by the ability to live a full and creative life but also by the ability to adapt in order to deal with the inevitable difficulties that life presents. One of the most significant barriers to effective support for the prevention and management of mental health problems is people's reluctance to consult with mental health professionals when they are experiencing symptoms of mental illness. In this country, there has been little investigation into the behaviour of older Sikh Indian migrants who seek mental health assistance. Furthermore, very little has been published about specific cultural ideas that shape this group’s worldview and how this perspective affects their behaviour when seeking assistance. In order to comprehend the perspectives on the mental wellness of older Sikh Indian migrants, previous research is reviewed and taken into account in this study. Perspectives on mental wellness may vary, they do however, also take into account a person's capacity for joy and for striking a balance between routine tasks and endeavours to achieve emotional well-being. Australia, being a multicultural society, recognises the importance of a culturally tailored approach to service provision involving all communities represented in the country. The number of Indian migrants living in Australia has grown in the past 15 years, with many migrants becoming permanent residents. However, little is known about how those who migrate to Australia at an older age (65 years or older) define mental wellness and how it impacts their help-seeking.


The main objective of the study was to explore mental wellness from the perspectives of older Indian migrants. The study’s main goal was to examine the perspectives on mental wellness and experiences that influence their help-seeking for mental health services in Australia.


A focused ethnographic approach is used in this study. Participants aged 65 years and over were recruited from the Indian community living in Perth, Western Australia during 2021-2022. Critical informant snowball sampling was used to recruit participants. In-depth interview was conducted by using semi-structured open-ended questionnaires. Participants selected appropriately situated venues to conduct these interviews which lasted for 45 to 60 minutes. The interviews were audio-recorded and then transcribed verbatim. Using the constant comparison technique, data were analysed by open, axial, and selective coding to identify categories to construct meaning from the data.


Four themes emerged from this study: 1) perception of mental wellness and mental health; 2) Challenges/ settlement; 3) Seeking health services; and 4) Coping strategies. Mental wellness was described as being happy with a good quality of life. Mental illness on the other hand was associated with a level of ‘madness’ that participants feared or regarded as taboo. Several causes of mental illness were reported including supernatural causes, negative thoughts, and stress. Seeking health services for mental illness was hindered by a lack of knowledge of available services, an inability to trust health workers and the cost of services to non-resident participants. Settling in Australia was challenging for this cohort of migrants because of language barriers, diminished social circles, discrimination and economic hardships that often-triggered self-reported depression and anxieties. Maintaining connections and interacting with friends and families were some of the core strategies participants used to cope with depression and anxiety. Participants’ spirituality also played an important role in managing their mood disturbances.


Older Indian Sikh migrants' conceptualisation of mental wellness is shaped by their past and present challenges. This affects how they utilise the health care system and thus puts them at risk of mental health problems. These findings will catalyse further research on this vulnerable group, and aim to promote social interaction, provide accessible services, and offer social support as well as culturally appropriate mental health services.



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